Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects many people; in fact, a survey showed that at least 25 million adult Americans are suffering from the disorder in various degrees. What is worse is that many people do not even know they have the disorder. The disorder can be a dangerous one, depending on the severity, making it imperative that you know if you are suffering from it.
What exactly is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tongue slightly lodges in the back of the throat, which obstructs your airway passages. The disorder causes the victim to take shallow breaths while he or she sleeps. There is a chance that the person who has sleep apnea will stop breathing briefly as he or she sleeps.
The pauses can last for a few seconds to as long as a few minutes. Even more troublesome is that these pauses can happen about 30 times within one hour. The body does try to correct the issue while you are sleeping by forcing you to wake up just a little to correct the position of the tongue. Sometimes the air you are able to breathe in has to go through such a small airway passage that it causes you to snore or even choke.
Why is Sleep Apnea Hard to Diagnose?
There are a few reasons why sleep apnea is not easily detectable. For one, your body usually does not wake you up so that you notice the reason for the disruption. Second, the disorder is not generally something that a doctor can diagnose when you are fully awake. The victim might not notice any symptoms while he or she is awake that can be associated with sleep apnea with exactitude. In fact, a sleeping partner or a family member usually notices that you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
Still, just in case, the following are a few symptoms that some sleep apnea sufferers experience:
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- Propensity to depression due to poor sleep
- The loss of concentration or memory impairment
Though these symptoms could be associated with other issues, it is a good idea to make sure it is not sleep apnea. It may seem a little strange, but perhaps the best thing that you can do is ask a family member or a friend to see if you have the problem. Remember that while obstructive sleep apnea can affect anyone, but it is usually associated with people who are overweight. So make sure you have a specialist check things out if you suspect that something might be amiss.
What Makes Sleep Apnea so Dangerous?
The problem is hard to diagnose. A bigger problem, depending on its severity, is that it can actually be dangerous and detrimental to your health. The danger really stems from the fact that you are obstructing oxygen from the body continuously. The body needs a constant supply of oxygen to function normally, but this is obstructed while you sleep for about eight hours.
One of the most detrimental effects of untreated and severe sleep apnea is brain damage. Apparently, sleep apnea leads to the reduction of gray matter, which is associated with cognitive impairments, mood swings, and increasingly unstoppable sleepiness during the day. Not only that, but Dr. Jamali also knows that sleep apnea could have some detrimental effects to your overall cardiovascular health and its ability to function. This issue could raise the risk of cardiac arrest or shock. The blood’s job is to give the rest of the body a healthy amount of oxygen to carry out its functions, including the removal of toxins like free radicals. This means that your overall health and ability to fight off diseases might suffer should this problem continue to go unnoticed. The problem could get so bad that it might increase your chances of developing diabetes.
There is no doubt that sleep apnea is a silent and dangerous issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
How Can Sleep Apnea be dealt with?
A professional’s opinion like that of Dr. Jamali would be invaluable to those who have this issue. The first thing that will happen is a confirmation that this problem is affecting you as well as an overall evaluation of how severe the problem is. There is likely going to be a cephalometic analysis using a skull s-ray. There may also be a naso-pharyngeal exam, which is performed with a fiber-optic camera to see just how much the problem has affected the cardiovascular system.
There might be sleep study performed to monitor the individual’s entire sleep pattern and sleep apnea severity. The solutions will present themselves once the evaluation is complete. There are a number of ways to approach the situation depending on how severe it is. For example, those who are suffering from a median form of sleep apnea may do well using a nasal CPAP machine. This machine pressurizes oxygen enough to shoot it through any obstruction, which should be helpful. Keep in mind that this is a mask, which will take some time to get used to.
Another possible solution is to simply try the uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty surgical procedure, which does have a laser-assisted cousin called the uvulo-palato-plasty procedure. Both of these surgical procedures remove tissue from the back of the throat while remodeling it to help open up the airway passages while you sleep. Keep in mind that these procedures are usually performed under light IV sedation and nothing more, and they are considered minimally invasive surgeries.
Of course, there are some cases where a minimally invasive procedure is simply not enough, and it is at this point that an upper and lower jaw repositioning procedure might be the only option to get rid of this problem once and for all.
The procedure is referred to as orthognathic surgery, which is something that Dr. Jamali and his team are quite adept in. The procedure requires some general anesthesia and will ask the patient to stay one to two nights in the hospital after the procedure.
Dealing with this problem as soon as possible is important and needs to be addressed with a certain level of gravitas because your health is important.